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The Unspoken Trauma of Motherhood

Mother holding baby twins feet with CIR logo on the bottom left

As Mother’s Day approaches I can’t help but reflect on my two experiences in becoming a Mom. With my first, it was a beautiful birth and an overall easy and uneventful pregnancy (if you ignore the constant fat shaming I received from the doctors). However, my second pregnancy was the complete opposite.

I found out I was carrying twins the week the world shut down because of COVID-19. I attended every appointment alone, masked, and afraid of exposing myself and my babies every time I left the house. On top of that I was constantly being reminded by the doctors that I was a high risk because of my weight. I would like to add the disclaimer that I was in perfect health when I got pregnant. I have no history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, not even with my first pregnancy, I am just chubby. I allowed the fear and anxiety to take over as I navigated doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I let them convince me that a c-section was the safest option for all of us. And so, I delivered by c-section in a sterile room, with my hands tied down, and without getting to see or hold my babies for hours. I vividly remember telling the Anesthesiologist that I was going to throw up and he replied, “you’re nauseous because they just took your organs out, when they put them back you will feel better.” You can imagine what thoughts and imagery were going through my head when he said that. And after the babies were delivered, they were whisked them away with my husband following and I was left alone in a cold, sterile room with the nursing staff stitching me up. There was nothing beautiful about that birth and 3 years later I still feel the grief of that delivery and guilt that I did not advocate for myself and my babies more. I know that I am healthy, and I know that my body was meant to carry and birth twins, and yet I let a complete stranger tell me otherwise.

To add to the trauma of birth I found myself dealing with hypertension right after giving birth. My blood pressure was so high that I was being monitored around the clock, I had a nurse checking my blood pressure every 15 minutes. I needed to maintain a normal blood pressure reading for 24 hours until they would consider letting me go home. I spent 7 days in the hospital. 7 days without seeing my 4-year-old daughter, 7 days without seeing my family, 7 days feeling like I was in jail, being held against my will. I begged the doctors to release me, to allow me to see my daughter. I explained that being in the hospital was creating anxiety for me. If I was asleep I would have a normal BP reading, as soon as I woke up and saw that dreaded machine my anxiety and BP increased, it was a cycle that I could not break. Just imagine being sliced in half and sewn up, being pressured to tandem nurse your babies, and then when you “failed” and they begin to lose too much weight, being pressured to give them formula. All while being woken up every 15-60 minutes to get a BP reading and thinking about and missing your first born to a level you have never experienced. It felt cruel, inhumane. The doctor did not release me even after my plea, even after me promising to go to the doctor every single day. It wasn’t until my husband couldn’t bear to see me suffer anymore and firmly told the doctor that we were going to check ourselves out. We signed a form stating that we refused medical treatment against doctor’s recommendations, and I left the hospital feeling relieved and worried that signing that form might mean the insurance would not cover my 7 day stay.

Once I got home, I was filled with joy at holding my daughter and seeing my mom. My blood pressure normalized, and my readings were within range at home, but as soon as I went to the doctor for a reading my anxiety increased and my BP went up. I wrote down all of my readings to explain to the doctor that it was the trauma of the hospital that was leading to my increased blood pressure. Eventually, I was able to get off BP medicine and declared “healthy.” Except I wasn’t…

Postpartum depression hit me like a huge tidal wave. I spent hours crying every day. I felt like a failure, and I was scared. I worried about everything all of the time and I could not shake it. It took therapy, medication, a postpartum support group, and lots and lots of time to feel like I was finally making progress and to have hope that I would eventually be the same person I was before I had the twins.

CIR is putting on a Maternal Wellness Conference in May that will focus on understanding trauma across generations. As we spoke to the trainers and discussed the content for this conference, I found myself thinking about how much harder my experience with the twins would have been if I was an immigrant like my mother was. If I didn’t understand the language, if I had no idea how to navigate the medical system, if I feared deportation, and I didn’t have money. If I being a citizen of this country, with a degree from UCLA and with a loud and assertive personality, found myself unable to truly advocate for myself and my children, how can we expect that others with less privilege than I can?

I encourage all service providers to attend our FREE statewide conference on Maternal Wellness on Friday, May 10th from 9-1pm. We need to do better, and with knowledge and compassion for others, we can do better.

#training #maternalwellness #trauma